Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First Impressions

Sabbaticals are designed for empty nesters who can travel the world,
study in an exotic place, or relocate their families for months on
end. I am obviously not one. One institution reminded me of that when
I applied for a grant to offset some of the expenses. After they
received my application, they asked me to re-apply because I was
spending "too much time in Knoxville." I asked them why I would
relocate for 4 weeks to another city, and they said, 'So you can
rest.' I told them that sleeping in a hotel room for 4 weeks away from
family was not my idea of rest.

Sabbaticals for dads with families are written differently. I still
wanted to attend as many of Parker's basketball game as possible and
to feel Drake climb into the bed in the middle of the night as often s
possible. You gave me the opportunity to tailor something to fit my
family's needs, my interests and curiosities. Even more importantly,
you surrounded me with great staff and laypeople who have done more
than simply carry on. They have been very busy about the important
work of ministry, covering bases for me as well as keeping up an
incredible pace over 8 weeks. I hope to be able to return the favor to
each one of our ministers.

All of this help means that the phone hardly ever rang; I
disconnected; and the emails have been relatively easy to respond to.
(Email does take awhile, however; I'm still working through them).
Even when you ran into me at the gym or the mall or the grocery store,
you were kind enough not to respond to my question, "So how are things
going at the church?" You nodded and said, "Enjoy your time away."
Thanks for the freedom. Throughout these last weeks, I have enjoyed
time on the UT and Carson-Newman campuses. The Carson-Newman library
staff have assisted me with any needed resources and have functioned
as an "office away from the office" while studying and writing. I have
learned that if you need anything, ask Betty Kelley or Bruce Kocour.

As great as my time was apart from you, it's even better to be home
and to be with you. I missed you, and I really missed worshiping with
my family. Thank you so much for the rest.

William D. Shiell, Ph.D.
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Knoxville
510 West Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
O: 865-546-9661 x 114
C: 865-363-7087
Facebook: www.facebook.com/william.shiell
Blog: www.firsthoughts.blogspot.com
Twitter: @Williamshiell
Church: www.fbcknox.org

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Roudy's Rescue

The miraculous story of my brother, University Baptist in Coral Gables, and a family in Haiti.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jerusalem & Bethlehem

Slide show of pictures here

Images below: The Bethlehem Wall (Bethlehem side)
Rabbi talking on a cell phone at the Western (wailing) Wall
Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives

Kelly and I were in Jerusalem and Bethlehem Saturday-Tuesday March 13-16 during the most recent tensions between the Israeli government and Palestinian leadership. We arrived as part of a travel group with a tourist's-eye view of incidents. Keep in mind that tour groups are intentionally sheltered from problems. We would have only known what was going on from reading the hotel newspapers or seeing a sound byte on CNN's international station. I did not see a report on the Fox news hotel channel. We knew that we were following in Joe Biden's footsteps. We were in the same gift shop on Saturday, March 13 in Bethlehem that he visited the day before. We did hear two different perspectives from our Jewish tour guide in Jerusalem and the Orthodox Christian tour guide in Bethlehem.

The contrasts were striking. On Saturday afternoon we were in Bethlehem seeing the Church of the Nativity in Christian Bethlehem the traditional site of the place where Jesus was born. On Sunday morning, we were in the Muslim area of Jerusalem to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, the traditional sites of Golgotha and the Joseph of Arimathea's family tomb. We saw two different worship services in action as well. We had plenty of incense to go around by the end of the day.

The most recent tensions were caused by the announcement of continued Jewish rebuilding efforts in East Jerusalem, and the dedication of the Hurva synagogue in East Jerusalem. We walked right past the synagogue. From the larger perspective, the issues revolve around the Israeli government's and Palestinian authority's continual struggle to deal with its political, spiritual, and religious disagreements. Not all Israelis are Jews; not all Jews want to throw out the Palestinians. 35% of Bethlehem is Christian (mainly Baptists and Orthodox Christian); many Palestinians are not Muslims; most Muslims are not pro-suicide bombers. If you can figure all this out on a grid, let me know.

From a tourist's viewpoint, all I see are shades of Berlin circa 1989. The Israeli government has erected a wall using Palestinian labor between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. If Mary and Joseph wanted to have a baby there today they would need, "special permission," and clearance through checkpoints. My South African friends would probably say this reminds them of apartheid. Palestinians cannot leave Bethlehem without clearance from Israeli officials.

From the average secular Israeli perspective, the standard argument is, "We've been planning to do this for a long time." And "This" is fill in the blank. Rebuild the synagogue (destroyed in the 1967 6-day war), put more housing in east Jerusalem, you name it.

From the Palestinian Christian perspective, the only thing they asks is, "Pray for us," "Pray for peace," or "Pray for jobs."

Behind the scenes, we know there are ongoing meetings. I talked to one pastor in the airport whose church sponsors a meeting in Bethlehem between Muslims, Jews, and Christians secretly. If South Africa and Germany (throw in Ireland too) are any examples, we need several things like that. We need lots of secret meetings between people who seem to be spiritually the opposite. We need teenagers eating pizza together who do not share the same neighborhoods. And we need churches to become educated about all the dynamics of the problem, not just the ones they can see from the safety of a tour bus. Sounds like a good theme to conclude Passover and Holy Week. We're right on time.

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